In the Women’s Fiction Writers Association spotlight

It’s great being in the spotlight—the WFWA Member Spotlight, that is.

The Women’s Fiction Writers Association, with over 850 members, is featuring me and my work this week. I’m truly honWomens fiction logoored – especially because they have accepted me, a male author, into their ranks and recognized my appreciation of women’s roles in American society.

If you’re a WFWA member, you can see the feature here: WFWA Spotlight

For those of you who aren’t, highlights from their interview follow:

Spotlight Highlights

This week the spotlight is on the talented J.Z. Howard!

As a father, husband, professional counselor, and spiritual seeker, J.Z. Howard champions women’s equality and empowerment in every sphere of life. Currently he is writing the outline and synopsis for the sequel to his debut contemporary novel, All of Me Wants All of You. The series explores how each character’s faith (and non-faith) influences their love/sex/partner choices. In this first story, an unlikely friendship develops between a wife struggling in a stale 24-year marriage and a younger single mom of an mischievous teenager which revolutionizes both women’s lives.

What movie actors would you cast your story? The lead actors I’d like for All of Me Wants All of You are:

Kate, the wife                            Kate Winslet
Dean, the husband                  George Clooney
Larissa, single mom               Jennifer Lawrence
Trevor, Larissa’s beau            Bradley Cooper

Cartoon headshotThe sequel builds on the ways that faith shapes these characters and their intimate relationships. As one book reviewer summed it up, “God designed us for love and beauty, and that includes beautiful sex.” A 3-layered, multi-generational tapestry of love, sex and spirituality develops—Boomer, Gen-X, and Millennial generations—that I describe as “sensual intimacy, sacred power.”

Where do you like to write?

In my home office when the house is quiet, day or night, weekdays or weekends, whenever I manage to carve out a few hours (sometimes minutes) to sit at the computer. I live in metro Minneapolis where the icy cold of winter cuts through you like a high-speed snowplow,

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Author Interview: Traditional vs. Edgy Christian Fiction

“[Charles Dickens] was quoted saying: ‘Depictions of cruelty and viciousness must be allowed. Though darkness must be part of a story, the darkness shall not overwhelm. But if the dark is not truthfully dark, the light cannot be truthfully light.’ If anything nails what edgy means, that says it for me,” says J.Z.

Click to read more of this interview where J.Z. discusses what makes Edgy Christian Fiction “edgy,” why it’s needed, and how it’s not really a new phenomenon.

EnnymansTerritory

Why do so many Americans ignore Christian media?

christian media

The vast majority of Christians around the globe believe they have the greatest message of all time for all humankind. But a recent survey reports that Christian books, movies, music, TV and radio are doing a poor job of reaching the secular masses — a full 65 to 75 percent of Americans with no religious affiliation or who don’t attend church never hear, never watch, and never read that message.

What’s going on? According to survey findings presented by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB)/LifeWay Research poll* at the NRB national convention in Nashville, February 25th:

  • 67 % of Americans rarely or never watch Christian television,
  • 72 % rarely or never listen to Christian radio or music, and
  • 65 % rarely or never read Christian books.

Ouch! That last statistic smarts for an author like myself who aims to reach a wide range of readers with stories that portray redemptive themes and Christian characters living out their faith in secular society. When I sit down to write edgy Christian fiction — my attempt to bridge this gap — my goal is to reach both camps of readers, the secular individual who is open to spiritually

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Great time at the Writers’ Institute

JZ at UW writers institute fixed

Basically, I wouldn’t have a novel without the lessons that I learned from attending the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute three times in prior years.

The first visit in 2012 involved helpful comments about my contemporary love story from a critique group. This guidance led to edits I made which engaged the reader immediately in the basic conflict, a stale 24-year marriage in which husband and wife were experiencing zero sexual intimacy. Months before I’d googled “Sexless Marriage” and discovered dozens of online forums, blogs and therapeutic/self-help websites showing huge numbers of miserable spouses in the 100,000s trapped in barren marriages.   

The second year I submitted a finished manuscript for a page-by-page critique. A professional story

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Shame vs. Libido? And the Winner is…

Shame Vs. Libido-

“Make no apology for your strong desire to be intimate with someone; it is neither sinful nor selfish.”       Larry Crabb, Psychologist

Aside from the effects of a person’s hormones on libido, have you considered the role of shame as it affects your sex drive? Yes, shame. Our focus today asks, Is shame the enemy of sexual desire?

Basically, we never want to repeat a negative experience. When shamed, we shut down. Our libido gets frozen in the deep freeze of aversion and secrecy, hidden away and locked in a dark room. Our hormones follow suit. They obey our fears and the decisions we make, often subconscious, to protect our identities and delicate psyches.

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5 Barriers to Intimacy

5 barriers to intimacy couple in bedThe bedroom “blahs.” The “not tonight, honey” blues. The “I’m too busy, too stressed” excuses.

  1. Denial: Subconscious refusal to acknowledge or correct the dilemma
  2. Busyness: Over-scheduling activities that crowd out quality intimacy
  3. Children: Giving in to the constant pressures of child-rearing
  4. Stonewalling: Refusing to dialogue when your partner brings up this sensitive subject
  5. Church Taboos: Adhering to centuries-old religious misinformation

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Gold Medal – Judge’s Comments

Gold medalI’ve received the judge’s comments from the Illumination Awards team. I’m so pleased with their take on All of Me Wants All of You!

“Well-drawn characters and a plot filled with twist and turns. A thought-provoking and entertaining read.”

“Sexy and funny, with a nice blend of temptation and redemption.”

“Fast-paced, timely and smart. I can see it up on the big screen

The moment was perfect. Except…he was married

 

An excerpt from All of Me Wants All Of You: Afforded a golden opportunity, what could possibly prevent a sex-starved, virile man from making passionate love with a beautiful and willing younger woman? He is married and she is single, and they’ve just stolen a secret, feverish kiss. After meeting covertly at a shopping mall, they exit together under the cover of twilight . . . .

man-turning-away-from-womanDean held her gently. Night was falling and shadows blanketed the parking lot. They stood entwined in one another’s arms, blissfully joined. He savored her perfume and their fiery kiss moments before as Larissa glanced in several directions, clearly to satisfy herself that nobody was observing them. They were totally alone. No one could prevent them from carrying out their tryst. He took her hand and opened the passenger door of his Honda, urging her inside.

Dean walked around to the other side of the car. As he passed the parked car next to his, he glimpsed a bumper sticker:

NO Jesus, NO Peace

KNOW Jesus, KNOW Peace

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Gold Medal: 2015 Illumination Book Awards

 

Gold medalThe Independent Publisher’s Illumination Awards are intended to celebrate and recognize the exemplary books produced by the ever-growing Christian branch of publishing and bookselling.

I am so pleased that All of Me Wants All of You was awarded the Gold Medal in the Inspirational/Romance Fiction category.

I’ve put the link to their website just below. The Inspirational/Romance is category 15 (scroll down to see it).

Illumination Awards

Congratulations to the other winners, and please share the awards news to support Christian authors of every genre!